Thank you so much Nony, for my pocket calculator; I was the only girl in my school class without one, so I had to do my sums in my head, and the answer wasn’t always as right as theirs.” An unfair competition, as far as speed and accuracy goes, between the lightning speed of the calculator, and doing sums in the “old way”! I awakened with that sentence running through my head followed by a series of thoughts. What kind of reality does adding and dividing, multiplying and subtracting have, when it is removed from one’s experience of having more or less, sharing a portion of one’s goods, or loosing them? If “sums” are first just numbers on pieces of paper and not a portion of daily compassion or greed, what do the numbers come to mean? When numbers are removed another step into simply results coming when the right buttons are pushed, the distance from reality is even farther.
My mind went on to consider the history of exchange. Think of the feel and touch, satisfaction or frustration involved with having too many potatoes and searching for someone with apple trees who would swap some apples for some potatoes, or of having many sheep, and the know-how to turn wool into thread, then searching for someone with a loom to weave cloth in exchange for a certain amount of thread. Jump on into the using of shells for exchange, then silver and gold, and then step away into the use of paper money to represent gold and silver, and checks to represent paper money, and on into the modern confusion of the world’s complicated economic system recorded on computers.
Where have the short cuts taken us as to any of the basic realities of life becoming more real? What price computer life? One price is the loss of the sense of reality in some of the important basic areas. The distance between the “real world” and the rapid mathematical calculations it is reduced to in so many areas, becomes a distance that measures unreality.
Language is so wonderful in giving us communication, and written language increases the possibility of communication. However, God has warned us that the very use of words may push us farther and farther away from any reality of communication if the words are used without thought or understanding, as only some kind of a short cut for a desired result. Remember when the Pharisees were complaining to Jesus that his disciples were breaking the law of the elder’s tradition by eating bread without washing their hands?
Matthew 15:3, 7–9 says “But he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, ‘why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?… Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.’ ” There can be a dangerous temptation to take short cuts spiritually by “mouthing” or “saying” words that sound outwardly as if we were drawing close to the Lord, while inwardly our motive has been twisted into something with no honest desire in it for the Lord’s will, nor for honoring him.
The twentieth-century atmosphere in the area of short cuts, which take people farther away from the basic realities of human exchange in creativity or farming or buying or selling, and take them into a kind of punch button existence removed from the need of thinking in many areas, affects us all in a manner that can too easily be transferred into our human relationships and more seriously into our relationship with the living God. People are too apt to be expecting as a matter of course, short cuts to spiritual growth, push buttons that can lead to the sought for “reality” in Christian life. Easy formulas or phrases can too easily become the kind of words that Isaiah warned the people were only honoring God with lips, not with the heart.
The true “measuring stick for reality” in our Christian lives, is the stick that would measure the distance between what our lips and mouths are saying, and where our “hearts” really are. To make that distance short enough to be a measure of reality is to be willing to take the long slogging way that may seem a long way around and even an unexciting way around.
However, the humanly tempting short cut makes the distance the Lord measures a very long one. The reality of knowing God, loving him and wanting his will, loving to spend time with him in his Word and in communication with him, takes time, but the longer time spent this way, then the shorter the distance between “heart” and “lips.” The shorter that distance is, the greater the reality of the presence of the Lord, and of his love and comfort in the midst of the changing, constantly shifting, intensity of the afflictions in life.
Satan’s temptations have always been to “short cuts,” a painless way to get something for nothing. Not only was his temptation to Eve and Adam this kind of thing, but to the Lord Jesus Christ himself as Satan promised him the worship of the people of the earth, without his going to the cross. Satan promises the things he has no power to give, but he makes it sound convincing, and as he tempts us as Christians, we need to be aware of the same kind of “short cut,” “push button” promise for spirituality, or “reality” without living through months and years of history, keeping the distance short between our hearts and our words.
The temptation is to just use formulas, phrases, types of music or poetry, positions of bodies or some specialized order of the use of time … with an expected result promised. The temptation is to put some kind of result, or some kind of attainment in the place of motive, and to fail to recognize the fact that the basic motive has long since departed from being a desire for the glory of God, or for a way to express love and appreciation to him. The motive shifts so often, when the “short cut” enters in, so often the motive becomes selfish.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ ” (Matt. 16:24–26).
The way of reality is not pictured as short and easy, as John Bunyan knew so well, and made clear in The Pilgrim’s Progress. What is meant to be short is the distance between our hearts, our whole person, the existence of what is true in our longings, and the expression of this in our prayer and action based on God’s Word. Then comes growing reality, in words acceptable unto God.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.